Love Lessons!

What can we learn about true “love” from Samson and Delilah? (If you need to be refreshed on their story, read Judges 16).

  1. “Love” is not enough. Samson “fell in love” with Delilah (Judges 16:4, NIV). But love (or was it lust?) without wisdom got him into big trouble. Always be sure to add wisdom to your love.
  2. Real love is priceless. Delilah was enticed by an enormous amount of money to deceive Samson. Watch out for lovers who can be bought.
  3. Love and lies don’t mix (including lies to ourselves). Both Samson and Delilah were lying to each other. If you think you are in love with a liar, you may be lying to yourself.
  4. Don’t shop for bargains when it comes to love (you tend to get what you pay for). Samson learned that getting “love” without marriage was no bargain in the end! What seems like a great deal on the front end can get quite costly later. And don’t lower your own price tag. If you sell yourself short, expect to be considered “cheap” by whoever got the bargain.
  5. Good relationships do not require ropes. If your partner keeps tying you up in your sleep (or when awake for that matter), you might want to reconsider that relationship.
  6. Don’t let your feelings be your guide. Enjoy them under healthy circumstances, but don’t seek them anywhere or follow them everywhere. Samson was controlled by his passions. He was tossed to and fro by lust and he lived and died for vengeance. Nothing weakens a strong man more than living on feelings.
  7. Excessive nagging can be harmful to your love (and your life). Delilah was effective as a nag because Samson forgot #1 above. Learn to discern legitimate encouragement and fair criticism from blatant manipulation.
  8. Real love comes on a two-way street (and stays on it too). Both Samson and Delilah loved the other on a one-way street. Maybe they were just using the other to love themselves.
  9. “It’s all about me” is a lousy way to love (in fact, it’s the opposite of love). Samson was a man of his turbulent times, which were defined rather selfishly: “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25, NASB).
  10. Real love should be able survive a bad hair day!

Photo Credits
Samson under Assault

Delilah and Samson

Bold and Brave—Part 2
(Another Verb that Needs Your Voice)

Word for the Day: “yakah”

Verbal boldness has a rich history. In Part 1, we saw how the ancient Greek word elencho was used in the New Testament to expose great moments in the history of verbal boldness and bravery (see Part 1).

Now let us go back even further in time to reflect on the ancient Hebrew verb yakah. No, it does not refer to a desert plant in Central and North America. It shows up 59 times in the Old Testament and, like elencho in the NT, it mainly means reproof or correction. It can also indicate an argument, a dispute or a word of discipline. When a bold and brave word was needed, the verb yakah often came in handy for the OT writers.

Flawed people need yakah. King David likened yakah (from a righteous man) with an anointing of oil on the head (Psalm 141:5). His son Solomon compared it with fine gold earrings and ornaments (Proverbs 25:12). He wisely observed, “Whom the Lord loves, he rebukes [yakah]” (Proverbs 3:12).

Prophetic Courage

Yakahcan have great value, but it is not fun. It was an unpopular function of the Hebrew prophets who were not noted for having fun! Was Samuel seeking popularity when he confronted King Saul for his disobedience? Nope. Was it fun to listen to Saul’s lame excuses? No.

Nevertheless, sometimes it worked. Consider the courage it took for Nathan to call King David on the carpet! The king could have ignored Nathan, accused him of being a verbal bully, punished him or even rid himself of this pesky prophet. Nathan didn’t care. He had a job to do and he did it, speaking truth to power. David, convicted by a hard truth he tried to cover up, realized what a brutal bully he actually was and he repented! Okay, “bully” understates it. David engaged in adultery, deception, abuse of power, and to cover it up, he added conspiracy to murder. He might have gotten away with it were it not for Nathan.

Centuries later, Ezekiel was appointed to be a “watchman” to warn the wicked. Amos understood the risk in his prophetic role, observing, “They hate him who reproves [yakah] in the gate.” (Amos 5:10). All the Hebrew prophets faced such hatred one way or another.

The word yakah does not literally appear in every prophet’s writings or every story where bold and brave words are used. What matters most are not particular words but the wisdom, courage and timing needed to make those words so mighty.

Decent Exposure

Caution: If you use yakah to push your own selfish agenda, maybe you are just a bully, not a prophet. Using God’s name to bash others falsely or selfishly breaks the third commandment. Still, courageous confrontation is vital and often necessary in a coldly sinful world. We cannot correct the abuse of yakah by calling for its non-use.

There is a huge difference between being a brave and honest whistleblower and a partisan tattle-tale. We know that countless government officials knew for a long time about the IRS intimidation tactics used to suppress conservative groups, voices and activities during the Obama administration and through two election cycles. Still, for years, no one had the integrity to come forward and blow the whistle. That would take moral courage. Indeed, cowardly silence in the face of corruption and indecency has had its day. It’s time to call spades what they are, in love. It’s time to let sane voices be heard, including yours. Would you be willing to expose a family member you knew was hiding from justice? They won’t like it. Yakah involves risk.

Don’t try this on others without serious care and prayer. And if someone loves you enough to try it on you, remember David’s humble comparison of yakah with an anointing of precious oil on the head.

Light Conquers Darkness

As the self-professed Light of the World, Jesus knew what was in store for him for boldly confronting the forces of darkness. Still, he pulled no punches exposing the corruption and hypocrisy around him even as his opponents plotted for his death. They pursued his blood until they got it, not understanding its power to defeat the forces of evil forever.

If no one is after your blood, maybe you live in a perfect world far from the dark side. If not, maybe you need to be a little more like the prophets and Jesus and boldly expose evil where you see it, including in yourself when necessary.

Bold and Brave—Part 1
(A Verb that Needs Your Voice)

Word for the Day: “Elencho”

Every word has a history. Elencho’s earliest known use in Greek was to convey blame. By the 4th century BC, philosophers like Plato and Aristotle used it for logical expositions—meaning, to test or examine. Soon, Elencho was used when a debater convinced someone of a point or refuted it. By the 1th century AD, elencho was used as a verb meaning; to expose, bring to light, rebuke, convict or correct. It was used 17 times in the New Testament with this meaning. For example:

  • John the Baptist put elencho to bold use when he “rebuked” (NIV) or “reprimanded” (NASB) Herod the tetrarch for stealing his brother’s wife, and for “all the wicked things which Herod had done.” (Luke 3:19). Elencho involves risk. John lost his head.
  • Elencho is what Jesus told us to do privately to a brother who has sinned against us: “Show him his fault” (Matthew 18:15). It’s the first step when seeking a resolution. It’s risky but be brave!
  • Elencho is also a function of the Holy Spirit who will “convict” the world concerning sin (John 16:8). It is not the Spirit’s most celebrated role but it may be His most important one. In this case, it takes bravery to receive elencho.
  • A closely related word, elegmos, describes the reproofing powers of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16) and just a few verses later, Paul returns to elencho to convey the correcting power of preaching (2 Timothy 4:2).
  • Paul also used elencho as an imperative verb. He charged the Ephesian saints, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose [elencho] them.” (Ephesians 5:11). Refraining from deeds of darkness is not enough. We must actively “expose” them.

Decent Exposure

Who likes to be exposed, rebuked or refuted? It rarely endears us to others. Nevertheless, love sometimes demands that we do it. Love may also call you to take it. Taking it means letting a light shine on our dark undersides. Doing it means shining a light on others. Walking as “children of light” (Ephesians 5:8) involves dealing with the dark side. We must lift a few rocks and watch the ungrateful bugs scramble for darkness.

Picture Dracula cringing in sunlight. That’s the effect elencho has on most sinners. Listen to Jesus: “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed [elencho].” (John 3:20). Evildoers hate decent exposure. Thieves wear masks. Some politicians keep their real agendas well-covered. For the convenience of cheaters, they now have performance enhancing drugs that medical tests cannot detect. Too many terrorists hide behind innocent women and children to plot evil. Child molesters are adept at intimidating their young victims into keeping secrets. They all hate elencho!

But God hates lies, cover-ups, dirty secrets, and moral darkness. I’d rather earn the wrath of thieves and child molesters than the wrath of God, wouldn’t you?

BAPTISM: “For the Forgiveness of Sin”

A hymn written by Robert Lowry in 1876 begins with a good question:

    What can wash away my sin?

The answer is immediate and accurate:

    Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

What about the water of baptism? Doesn’t it wash our sins away too? Be careful. The real sin-cleansing power comes from above and works only through the blood of Jesus. Baptism has no power or meaning apart from Jesus’ blood. The water itself is neither magic nor holy. Without the cross, it’s just a bath. But because of the cross and the forgiveness we can claim through Jesus’ blood, baptism becomes the most meaningful act we can carry out this side of heaven.

If the act of baptism is not the actual agent of forgiveness, how could the apostle Peter preach: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…” (Acts 2:38, bold font added)? And why did a devout Christian named Ananias tell Saul of Tarsus: “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16)?

Just because baptism is empty and meaningless apart from forgiveness, that does not mean it is itself the agent of forgiveness. I see a powerful connection between forgiveness and many other acts of faith and obedience, like prayer, communion and worship. I fully believe in prayer for the remission of sin. When I pray, “Lord, forgive my sins,” I am expressing this belief. I am praying for forgiveness without presuming that prayer is the agent of my forgiveness. I also believe in the Lord’s Supper for the remission of sin. Remove the forgiveness part and it’s just juice and crackers. I partake of this sacrament as a means of access to the blood of Jesus, knowing that it’s the blood itself that forgives me in the end. I even believe in worship for the remission of sins. What joy would there be in worship and song if we separated them from forgiveness? Still, Lowry was right; nothing but Jesus’ blood can cleanse the sinful soul.

Does the sinner’s prayer actually forgive sins? Of course not. Yet, we pray for the forgiveness of our sins because we are desperate for it–a desperation that also takes us straight to the waters of baptism as instructed in the New Testament. So why all the fuss over the phrase “baptism for the remission of sin”? Like praying for forgiveness, it’s biblical!

We understand that literal water, juice, crackers, song lyrics, musical notes and prayers are not the agents of our salvation. But the minute we separate them from the forgiveness of sins we get through Christ, they lose all meaning. That’s why Peter could preach, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…” (Acts 2:38).

As it happens, Robert Lowry also wrote the hymn lyric:

    Shall we gather at the River?

He was great at asking good questions.

Was Jesus Religious?

Would you like to be spiritual without being religious? First, I commend your desire to be spiritual. Second, I commend you to Jesus as inspiration for not leaving the religious part behind. Here are seven points to ponder about Jesus:

  1. Jesus was raised by very religious parents who kept the Jewish laws and customs of their day. Mary followed the purification terms of her religion and the whole family showed up at the temple on time for Jesus’ presentation and circumcision (Luke 2:21-22).
  2. At age 12, Jesus was found in the temple with religious teachers, listening and asking questions. The reason he was in Jerusalem in the first place was to participate in the religious feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41-49).
  3. Jesus faithfully kept the religious holidays of his day and led others in keeping them. He also attended synagogue services regularly. It was his custom (Luke 4:16).
  4. Jesus was a respected Rabbi (John 3:2).
  5. Jesus was a man of much prayer. He often slipped away to the wilderness to pray (Luke 5:16) or did all-nighters on a mountain (Luke 6:12). He taught his disciples not just to pray but how to pray (Matthew 6:5-13 and Luke 18:1-14). Knowing Jesus’ prayer habits enabled his betrayer, Judas, to lead a Roman cohort right to him (John 18:2-3). In the garden where they found him, Jesus prayed so fervently that “his sweat became like drops of blood” (Luke 22:44). And he was heard by his Father, we are told, “because of His piety.” (Hebrews 5:7).
  6. Jesus affirmed both micro and macro religion putting both in their proper perspective. He critiqued the Pharisees saying, “You have neglected the weightier matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” (Matthew 23:23).
  7. Jesus came to set people free from slavery to sin, not from religion. But if someone’s religion helped to shackle them to sins of pride or pretense, Jesus knew better. He respected religion but disrespected religious hypocrisy (see Matthew 23).

So yes, Jesus was religious. However, some clarification is in order. Jesus’ religion was not defined by trivia. He respected rites, customs and traditions, but never at the expense of one’s love for God and neighbor. One of the bombers of the 2013 Boston marathon religiously refrained from smoking and drinking because Allah did not want such things. Yet he murdered innocents. He was like those religious leaders who refused to step foot into the Praetorium where Jesus would face Pilate, “so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.” (John 18:28). Orchestrating the execution of an innocent man was fine, but not touching the house of a Gentile. Also, the chief priests refused to break a religious law by putting the pieces of silver Judas returned into the temple treasury, “since it is the price of blood.” (Matthew 27:5-6). God actually used their morally schizophrenic nonsense to accomplish His plan of salvation for sinners, but still, such twisted legalism gives real religion a bad name.

Cruel and hard-hearted religion made Jesus mad. One day in a synagogue on the Sabbath, some Pharisees were watching to see if He would heal a man with a withered hand. He asked, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4). It’s a hard question for legalists and they had no answer. In anger, Jesus healed the man. To this day, true religion does not obstruct kindness or make people refuse friendship with an unbeliever or disown a child when they are baptized. Jesus’ disciple Peter later encouraged Christian women married to an unbelieving man to be all the more devoted, pure and loving to him (1 Peter 3:1-7).

Jesus believed in and practiced the same religion as the Scribes and the Pharisees. It was their fakery, not their faith, that turned his spiritual stomach.

Top Ten Classic Paintings

I may want to change this list tomorrow, but for today, here are the ten greatest paintings of all time, in my humble opinion.

  1. Samson (and Delilah), 1887, by Solomon Joseph Solomon (English, 1860-1927), oil on canvas, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. See Judges 16. Samson is under intense assault by Philistines as the delighted, vindictive Delilah taunts him with his severed hair in her hand.
  2. Evening, 1888, by Charles Sprague Pearce (American, 1851 – 1914), born in Boston and studied in Paris.
  3. The Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan of Turkey, 1880–1891, by Ilya Repin (1844-1930), late-19th century Russian painter, teacher at St Petersburg Academy. Oil on canvas, 140.9 × 79.9 in, State Russian Museum, St.Petersburg. Under the demand for their submission from a sultan, these proud Cossacks are collaborating on a mocking reply, which they know they may incur the wrath of the Sultan.
  4. Daniel in the Lion’s Den, 1896, by Henry Ossawa Tanner (American, 1859-1937). Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Tanner once wrote: “My effort has been not only to put the Biblical incident in the original setting… but at the same time give the human touch which makes the whole world kin, [and] to convey to my public the reverence and elevation these subjects impart to me.” The son of a minister, Tanner allegedly told his father, “you preach from the pulpit and I will preach with my brush.”
  5. Evening Bells, by Isaac Levitan (1860-1900), One of the greatest landscape painters among the progressive group of 19th century Russian Itinerants (Wanderers), noted for his mastery of light and colour.
  6. King Lear; Cordelia’s Farwell (1898), by Edwin Austin Abbey (American, 1852 – 1911), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
  7. Lamentation Over the Death of the First Born of Egypt, 1877. Charles Sprague Pearce (American, 1851-1914). National Museum of American Art, Washington DC. A critic described this work as “a picture one will not forget.” I saw it over twenty years ago and I still remember the museum, the room, the painting and how deeply it moved me.
  8. Secluded Monastery(1890), by Isaac Levitan (1860-1900), One of the greatest landscape painters among the progressive group of 19th century Russian Itinerants (Wanderers), noted for his mastery of light and colour. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
  9. Bargemen on the Volga (1870-73) by Ilya Repin (1844-1930), State Russian Museum, St.Petersburg. oil on canvas, 51.8 X 110.6 in.
  10. The Angelus (1859), by Jean-Francois Millet (1814-75), devout French realist painter of peasants at work, key member of Barbizon School. Musee d’Orsay.

    [hr]

    Photo Credits:

    Samson (and Delilah)

    Evening

    The Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan of Turkey

    Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Evening Bells

    King Lear; Cordelia’s Farwell

    Isaac Levitan

    Bargemen on the Volga

    The Angelus

So Goes the Church

America is currently experiencing a decline in church attendance and health. Buildings are being sold, young people are bolting and biblical literacy is evaporating. With sincere concern, many are rearranging deck chairs as the ship continues to sink. Some seek a more polished strategy to stem the decline but in many cases, it doesn’t. Others feel helpless and sing, “Nearer my God to Thee.”

Is the Church the Culprit?

In the face of tumultuous change, many churches turned inward and lived in the past. A spiritual “static cling” kept them in a comfy bed of nostalgic irrelevance and practical indifference. Time to wake up! Jesus did not establish His church to live in or for any one cultural era. Even if we successfully re-form churches on the surface just for a new “era” that will also someday be gone, we may pacify a few critics but we still won’t deserve to exist in Jesus’ name.

Another take is that we have been too graceless, rigid, inactive or self-absorbed, thus turning off insiders and outsiders. Perhaps, but those flaws also flourished in times when American churches were booming.

Some claim churches are dying because Christians aren’t (a figurative reference to Jesus’ demand for us to die to our sinful selves and live for him). When enough members forgo this “death,” congregations get brittle and break apart. Again, this is not new.

Perhaps our leaders have been too silent or intimidated in the face of moral chaos and theological upheaval. The fundamentals of biblical Christianity remain posted on many “what we believe” pages on church websites but we don’t let them out often or clearly enough in public. We fear being called “fundamentalists” along with many other loaded labels our culture pins on us.

Is Our Culture the Culprit?

When the gospel becomes less comprehensible or palatable to the popular culture, why do we rush to blame the church for her decline? American culture is becoming radically secular. Tolerance for biblical faith is fading. The gospel, rightly embraced and expressed, may itself be a reason for our decline. The truer we are to Jesus, the less we fit worldly paradigms and values. Our culture prefers do-it-yourself religion to biblical faith. People presume they can figure out good and evil for themselves. Yes, the serpent’s strategy first used on Eve still has legs.

Wanting to keep insiders and win outsiders, many churches soft-pedal the tougher elements of our faith and try harder to compete with the culture, or worse, conform to it. Like a ship at sea, we sink as we take in too much of the ocean. Feeling the competition, many churches positively teach their young how to feel like Christians but not how to understand Christianity. College professors easily tear such a feelings-based faith apart. And since Hollywood still out-performs most churches in manufacturing feelings, we lose many we once entertained. Young believers who meet the world woefully unarmed often become casualties.

Our popular culture largely considers the church as “primitive,” “narrow,” “irrelevant,” and “provincial.” The truth is, this culture will soon be all those things in the eyes of future generations. Meanwhile, if Jesus’ word is true, the church (even if numbers decline) will survive all the passing cultures and civilizations that critique her.

A Commitment Crisis

The culprit theories above have certain merits. Still, even our best efforts at blame leave us adrift as storms loom on the horizon. I think a hard look at the family in America brings us closer to the problem. Paul practically equated the church with marriage (Ephesians 5:32). Have you noticed that the decline of marriage and the nuclear family in America is simultaneous with the decline of our churches? The family and the church are both under attack for similar reasons and, apparently, with the same result—decline! Because family breakdown impacts the young most, it is the young, more than other age group, who are turning away from church. As the family goes, so goes the church.

“Oikos” is the New Testament Greek word for home, household or family, the basic unit of society in NT times. The early church derived much of its definition and shape from the oikos. To Paul, family function was directly related to church function. A husband serving as the Christ-like head in his oikos was, for Paul, a godly model for the relationship between Christ (the groom) and the church (His bride). Paul thus saw the oikos as a fair testing ground for discerning leadership qualities for elders and deacons in Jesus’ church. He asked, “If a man does not know how to manage his own [oikos], how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:5). As care for the family crumbles, so does care for the church. Since we are God’s oikos (Hebrews 3:6), it stands to reason that family decline would be tied to church decline at the hip.

Personal relationships involving deep commitments are hard work. As our culture grows more impersonal and commitment gets less cool, respect for marriage falls. When relationships get difficult, it is popular bolt. Like families, no church is stronger than the relationships she maintains, first with God and also with each other and the community. Relationships matter! Meanwhile, secularism continues to erode morality, marriage and meaning inside and outside the church. In a highly secular era when families are disintegrating, why would we expect churches to grow? It is high time to fight like Christians for the nuclear family and for singles like me to join the good fight. But first, we must renew our baptismal commitment to die to ourselves, rise forever with Jesus and trust Him to love and protect His bride.

[hr]

Photo Credits:

Featured Image

Family Breakdown

A Full 180

What sort of fruit grows on a tree of “the knowledge of good and evil?” What looked so irresistible to Eve that it made her disobey God? Was it an apple, a pear, a pomegranate or what?

Wrong question. The fruit (undoubtedly delicious) did not produce the sin. Something went wrong deep inside the hearts of Adam and Eve when they fell for the forbidden fruit. Eve tried to blame the serpent and Adam blamed Eve, but in fact, they had only themselves to blame.

It is easy to blame our sins on other people or things. We like to point to poverty, abusive parents or the seductive entertainment industry to justify our vices. Such excuses won’t fly with God. Beauty is not to blame for adultery. Money does not make us greedy. Poverty and pain occur to us all, but some face it with virtue while others blame it for their vice. The problem lies deeper than objects and circumstances.

Jesus knew where the problem was. He said, “A good man produces good out of the storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” (Luke 6:45).

Turning our circumstances around is not enough. Oh, it may provide a temporary fix, but it can’t create virtue or correct vice. Do-it-yourself religion won’t work either. A turn must take place in your heart and it must be a full 180. And to keep from turning back, you must keep a firm hold on God’s hand and trust His knowledge of good and evil over your own.

We Must Discriminate!

A shocking magazine cover on display in a public bookstore in Minnesota a few years ago featured a man with both arms raised and the middle finger of both hands raised higher. I approached the information desk and asked the manager, “Do you intend to keep this crass cover on public display?”

A clerk trying to impress his manager proudly replied, “Yes, we don’t discriminate! We have gay magazines, sex magazines and so on. If we took this one down, we would have to take them all down.”

His moral highway had no red or yellow lights.

I responded, “No you don’t. Your store can put up or take down any magazines you want.”

His face went blank. He was surprised to hear me affirm his moral freedom.

I continued, “You make decisions, don’t you? I honor your store’s freedom to put up or take down what you want. But if you didn’t discriminate, there would be no limit to the size of your magazine rack. I just want you to admit that you are freely deciding what to display or not, when and how. Everybody discriminates.”

The clerk was silent. He claimed to be obligated by some noble invisible standard of consistency that would force him to take down everything objectionable if he ever took down any one thing objectionable. It was a secular sort of legalism of which he was proud. He justified things raunchy, hateful, sadistic, evil and snide with the self-satisfying notion that it is noble not to discriminate.

The failure to discriminate is often nothing more than a refusal to think. Okay, maybe it’s more. It’s also a refusal to care. This delusion is what lies behind much of the nonsensical and angry art and entertainment that is so popular today. It also lurks behind the rise in moral despair and chaos in America which is crippling our education system, hurting our economy and tearing down the family.

When used as a tool of racial prejudice or a morally unjust purpose, discrimination is wrong and inexcusable. But if a driver cannot discriminate between red, yellow and green on the highway, he’s a menace. If a batter cannot discriminate between curves and fast balls, he will strike out. Basketball players must discriminate between their team and their opponents. If a husband will not discriminate in favor of his wife over a floozy, he will soon crash. If a culture cannot define marriage in distinct moral terms that respect children’s need for a mom and a dad in the home, it will dissolve into sexual chaos. Discrimination also helps in choosing a healthy spouse, church and career. You need it to decorate your home well or to create displays at bookstores. Most of all, discrimination is essential for sorting out right from wrong. Refuse to discriminate morally and you will soon become a useful public tool for blatant forces of evil, even beyond bookstores.

Politics or Principle?

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama said, “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian … it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.”

When he reversed this position for the 2012 campaign, no one asked if he still thought marriage was a “sacred union” or if God was still in the mix. Over 16 years, Obama went from supporting same-sex marriage, to being “undecided,” to opposing it, to “evolving” and finally to supporting it again. Maybe “sacred” means “flexible.”

In 1996, President Bill Clinton supported and signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman. He recently explained why in a recent Washington Post op-ed:

  1. He said that 1996 “was a very different time.”
  2. He also believed that its passage “would diffuse a movement to enact a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which would have ended the debate for a generation or more.”

In other words, it was politics. Today, he is righteously indignant against the law he signed. He wants it overturned. He considers it discriminatory and thus immoral. Two years after signing DOMA, Clinton got into hot water for failing to discriminate against a young intern and in favor of the woman to whom he once vowed to be forever faithful.

If sexual identity constitutes a minority group and legal grounds for redefining marriage, then should bisexuals be able to marry both a male and a female simultaneously since his/her “orientation” is, directed toward both sexes? Such questions are rare today because our public discourse is driven more by politics than principle. Our leaders put politics over principle because this impresses those who elect them. Thus, we get flexible politicians who use poll-tested rhetorical gymnastics to keep us impressed. Everything, including “marriage,” gets redefined. Here’s a short list of examples:

    “Choice” : A non-offensive euphemism for exterminating babies.

    “Compassion” : Politicians turning America into a welfare state.

    “Crisis” : Political opportunity.

    “Cut”: An actual increase in spending but a decrease in hypothetical spending plans.

    “Deficit”: An excuse to print money out of the blue.

    “Love” : Having sex with someone you may or may not know. Some colleges offer courses that use “love” to describe incest and pedophilia.

    “Lottery” : Government making tons of money off of the poor.

    “Marriage” : Something we cannot define without being bigoted toward some sexual interest group somewhere whose votes are up for grabs.

    “Marriage equality” : The absence of a standard for marriage. When you apply a definitional standard, somebody somewhere loses their “equality”

    “Not one dime” : Phrase politicians use to deny the cost of expensive new government programs. This works well today.

    “Stimulus” : Euphemism for paying off political cronies.

    “Reality” : Posed and artificially manipulated entertainment.

    “Unemployed” : State of life in which you are not looking for work, usually half the number of people actually out of work.

    Why do we reward leaders and reporters who use words so flexibly? Easy; we too have placed politics above principle. Words get stretched beyond recognition because our morality has no roots deeper than what certain constituency groups want or what sounds good.

    [hr]

    Photo Credits:

    Barack Obama

    Bill Clinton